RAC Cars News


Going spare

By raccars Published

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Modern cars are no longer fitted with a spare wheel as standard. If you're buying new, you'll find a full size spare included as standard on only 8% of models.

The disappearance of the spare wheel is an inevitable consequence of the drive to reduce CO2 emissions. This has forced manufacturers to reduce kerb weight wherever possible, and they picked on the spare wheel as an obvious casualty.

When the car weighs less, manufacturers get to boast better fuel economy and emissions figures. This can mean a lower VED payment for owners, which works as a valuable car selling tool.

With an average 17 inch alloy weighing around 20kg, excluding it can potentially cut nine grammes in CO2 emissions from a car's official statistics. An unfortunate side effect of this saving can be inconvenience and expense at the roadside if a breakdown occurs. Since the demise of the full size spare, tyre and puncture related breakdown call outs have increased dramatically, affecting a third of motorists at some point.

The RAC attended 290,000 tyre or puncture related breakdown calls in 2010, a figure which had gone up to 360,000 three years later, as the spare wheel has been phased out. The roadside assistance firm has estimated that 1.5 million drivers experienced tyre and puncture breakdowns in 2013, of which 360,000 were obliged to seek assistance from a recovery service.

Customers who want a spare wheel can be forced to pay £600 or more, plus the additional cost of the jack and other attendant equipment needed to change the wheel in the event of a puncture. Those cars that do come with a spare are likely to be fitted with a space saver, which comes with 27% of new cars as standard. However, these are unsuitable for driving substantial distances and are usually restricted to a maximum speed of 50mph.

Auto makers, in an attempt at mitigation, are including a puncture repair kit with almost half (46%) of all new car sales or are fitting vehicles with run flat tyres. These feature reinforced rubber and sidewalls, to make them less liable to damage and to allow the driver to continue on the road for a limited distance to find a solution, should a puncture occur. The other 4% of new cars come with either self sealing tyres or a compressor.

While many car buyers will be happy to sacrifice a spare wheel if it means lower VED, make sure you know if the car you are buying contains a spare wheel or, if not, how you would deal with a puncture, should one occur.

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